Monday, May 26, 2014

Who Decides the Value of Learning?

On several occasions recently someone has asked me, in reference to participating in a learning opportunity or facilitating PD outside the district, "So how does this benefit us?" or "What are we getting out of this?"

I've struggled each time to explain my rationale. In my mind I think, "Why wouldn't we participate?" The need to justify these choices seems absurd to me because I am fortunate to be part of an amazing community of learners around Colorado and across the globe. Every day these people share things that I benefit from and in turn, when shared with the teachers and leaders I work with, our district benefits from. I sometimes forget that there are lines between our district and the next because so often with the people in my PLN the lines are blurred or nonexistent. These educators offer their thoughts, advice, ideas, templates, resources, time, and so much more without blinking...and I try to do the same for them. Even within the district I'm fortunate to work with some fantastic people on cross-departmental projects because we all have similar interests, passions, and dedication to the students and teachers we serve - regardless of our titles or which budget our paychecks come from. These people go above and beyond to accomplish their more than full-time workloads in addition to helping with these projects, and it is incredibly rewarding to know that we all want what is best for our community. So when someone asks me to justify participation in something outside the traditional walls of the district or department I work in I feel they are also asking me to put a finite price on learning, on sharing knowledge, and on helping others - both those I serve within my district and those who work in places near and far.

What if instead we assumed that every experience someone felt excited or passionate about participating in would be infinitely valuable? Valuable to them as a person and a learner, valuable to those they work with now and those they haven't met yet. What if we stopped feeling the need to quantify learning and sharing our talents and instead believed that every experience, whether positive or negative, would provide value?

I am challenging myself, and would ask the same of you, to model the value in openly participating in and sharing the learning and talents we each have. Pass on that thought, idea, or lesson learned so those around you can come along for the ride. If we each shared just 1 idea or reflection every day imagine how that learning could multiply and spread to others. If we continue to push the boundaries and not let invisible walls stop us from connecting and sharing across districts, states, and countries just think of how much faster we could achieve our goals and the dreams we have for students and teachers. 

So what will you share today? 

National Tap Dance Day 2014

When I was 7 I had a break in between a couple of the dance classes I took each week, and while the other kids were learning to tap I would work on my homework..or at least that was the plan. I was mesmerized and it wasn't long before I was tapping in my jazz shoes and helping some of the kids practice their steps. My dance teacher asked my mom to buy me a pair of tap shoes and sign me up for the class but she was very hesitant, not wanting to buy another pair of dance shoes in the event I ended up not following through with dance. Finally my teacher convinced her to buy me some secondhand shoes and offered me the class for free so I could participate. Within the year I had my first dance solo, and it was tap. Within 3 years I had changed studios and started dancing competitively around the country, receiving my highest scores as well as scholarships for my tap routines. For much of my life tap was the dance form I excelled at and that came most naturally to me, and it is the one I fell completely in love with first. 

Eleanor Powell & Fred Astaire - Begin the Beguine (Cole Porter)
One of my favorite numbers to learn and perform.

Through the years I have been fortunate to meet and dance with some of the masters of tap, and to learn not just about tap as an art form but to hear firsthand about tap's rich history from many of the dancers who are credited with making tap what it is today.

Happy National Tap Dance Day!

The Nicholas Brothers (Harold & Fayard Nichols) - Stormy Weather
Considered one of the greatest tap dances ever filmed. I was fortunate to meet & dance with Fayard Nicholas.

A couple of the tappers I've danced with:

Jimmy Slyde
Received a Tony nomination for Black and Blue. His successful career spanned almost 6 decades.

Brenda Bufalino
Known as a trailblazer in tap. Choreographed the famed, "Morton Gould Tap Concerto"  with Charles "Honi" Coles.

Jeni LeGon, one of the 1st African American women to have a solo career in tap.
Swing is Here to Stay (1937)

One of the defining moments in my tap career was dancing with Gregory Hines. He was an incredible dancer, performer, and all-around wonderful man.

A dream day in my tap-dancing life, tapping & talking with:
Gregory Hines, Fayard Nicholas, Diane Walker, Jeni LeGon

Cholly Atkins & Jimmy Slyde

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

"Do What You Love...Share Your Passion"

Why do you love it?
How are you sharing that love with others?

Sometimes I steal away into my computer and re-connect to my first passion, the very thing that taught me the meaning of loving something so completely that it consumes you in the best possible way. Late in the evening, when I should be finishing up my day and heading to bed, I grab my earbuds and pull up YouTube to watch dance videos. I search for contemporary or modern, especially loving the videos of classes and rehearsals in a studio. Those are my favorite because they are palpably real and raw, and the dancers have nothing to lose. - Holstee Manifesto
I love dance because I can always connect to it. It always makes me feel something...

I can feel the marley dance floor under my bare feet. I feel the hot breeze of a fan across my face while dancing away the humid Maine summers of my childhood in an aging 2nd floor studio. I can feel the floor burns and blisters on my feet, the bruises on my knees and shoulders, and the calluses on my hands. I can feel the nervous excitement of standing on stage right before the curtain goes up on a first performance and the intense commitment to dancing harder, running faster, and nailing each jump and subtle head movement the next night.
My first pointe solo, 1997
I know right away when I've found what I'm looking for because I want nothing more than to be dancing with them at that very moment. To climb on stage, to walk into the studio, and to move across the floor in the same way.

Most days my love for dance sits quietly on the sidelines, waiting patiently for a connection to the other parts of my life so it can pop into the spotlight for a split second before slipping once again into the background. But sometimes I take the time to reconnect to this important piece of myself. Without skipping a beat it jumps loudly into existence and takes over every aspect of my being. It oozes and drips from my soul and transports my thoughts simultaneously to my past and my future. - Holstee Manifesto
For over 20 years the way I shared my love for dance was quite simple. I danced. I performed. I taught dance to children and adults. I rehearsed and went to class for hours each day, 5-7 days a week, 12 months a year. The ways to share my passion with others seemed so obvious, so natural. And then I stopped dancing. Gradually I went from dancing every day to dancing one day, and some weeks no days. What had once been my career and my life - my identity - became my hobby. Then I started teaching, and I got to share my passion with my students throughout the year. I taught them dance. I showed them videos of the master tap dancers and modern greats. I brought in my pointe shoes and tap shoes and read them my favorite picture books about dance. Most of all I modeled that when you find that thing you love completely it's important to not just invest yourself wholeheartedly but to share that passion with the world.

And then I left my classroom and I no longer had a wide-eyed and inquisitive audience to share my passion with. So now I need to find a different way to share what I love, and that means taking risks and making commitments. It means pushing myself to reconnect to dance by taking class and auditioning so I can rehearse and perform this summer. It's exciting and scary and requires acknowledgement that I am not the dancer I was 10 years ago, and acceptance from myself to be ok with that. For most of my life the thing I was most passionate about happened to be the thing I devoted my life to training in, but there's no prerequisite to be amazing at all the things you love.

So what do you love?
Find something that brings you joy, that thing that instantly makes you want to climb out of your seat and onto the stage, and then do it as often as possible while sharing it with others.

The Holstee Manifesto: Typography Video

Monday, May 12, 2014

Lightrail Learnings: Personalization for All

I usually ride the train very early in the mornings but today I was heading into town midday with a different demographic of riders, many of them college students of  various ages. I was struck by watching them study their course material using index cards, handwritten notes on lined paper and in composition books, notes jotted in the tiny margin of PPT printouts, and questions that appear to have come from a digital assignment or assessment but have been converted to a PDF or other format to be printed.

This comes on the heels of watching my husband, a very tech-savvy programmer, suffer through an hour long pre-recorded webinar to verify he read a company's info packet so he can move to the next round of job interviews. *eye roll*

Meanwhile, my (former *tear*) 4th graders are intuitively programming robots and simple web apps, using Google Apps like pros, and determining which tool (digital and otherwise) will best meet their needs and purpose. On a daily basis I read posts about the incredible learning and thinking going on in tech-enabled classrooms everywhere: like + Brandon Peterson talking of 1st graders listing ideas like "webcasts, QR codes, building websites, infographics" when asked how they might share their learning. Right now I am owning my learning experience by reading articles, engaging in online communities, and reflecting on my thoughts while composing this post on my blog - all from my phone while I ride the train.
This makes me wonder about the current state of things, and where it is all headed. What kind of learning experiences do college students of all ages as well as adults in the workforce want right now? What kinds of experiences would enhance what they're doing? I then start to think about what my kiddos, the current students who are in K-12 classes right now, will expect and want when they enter college and the workplace. Are professors and institutions of higher ed going to be ready for them? Will the system be prepared to honor the student-driven experiences and competency-based learning many of them will have engaged in the majority of their lives?

Sometimes I wonder, and maybe even worry a little, about the changes and shifts that need to be made to truly honor each individual learner in our society. But I also get super excited at the possibilities. Every time I see that student on the train trying to memorize material on an index card or quiz themselves using a printed PPT I have ideas about changing their learning experience. I also know there are a number of people like me who also get excited by the possibilities of digital tools and a more personalized experience for every single learner, and those people are doing amazing things to get us all closer to that dream. I feel so lucky to interact with some of these fellow learners regularly, and I never cease to be amazed and excited by the impact we have and the things we can create together - much of which has yet to be dreamed up.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Countdown to InnEdCo 2014

Late last night I agreed to take part in the Countdown to #InnEdCo14 and I am so glad I did. Here's a few reasons why:
  • Purpose & Productivity
    • I got to spend a whole day thinking, reflecting, and sharing about 1 topic. It gave me focus and a reason to steal away into my head/journal/computer for a few minutes in between meetings and car rides from site to site. It was a refreshing change of pace throughout a busy day that can sometimes lack a sense of immediate feedback and accomplishment.
  • Sense of Community & Authentic Audience
    • I was sharing out to a broader community that shares a common interest with InnEdCo. It is nice to feel like part of something bigger than yourself that still has an authentic audience.
  • Excitement Building
    • This time of year (ok let's face it, most times of year) can be stressful and chaotic. It can start to seem like you're limping along while losing steam and positivity - and that feels just plain gross. Getting to step out of your head and imagine the possibilities to create, share, and build excitement for yourself and others around an event is pretty awesome. Now that I've started down this path I want to continue, and that gets me even more excited! I can't wait to see what others put together for the Countdown day they claim, and I have something to look forward to for myself in continuing to share my own excitement as we approach a week of incredible learning and connecting with one another. 
As the day came to an end I felt a little sad that I hadn't gotten to all the things I was hoping to share in my 24 hours, but as with most things this isn't the entire conversation - it is just the beginning. I only got to 5 of my "10ish Reasons I'm Excited for #InnEdCo14", so I think I will continue to post the ones I have written down and the ones that haven't come to me yet. I have lots of #InnEdCoMemes and #InnEdCoGIFs created, and some that I haven't made but want to. Those will also get shared over the next 39 days. Signing up for this Countdown gave me a reason to start pondering a blog post or two about my experiences at Copper Mountain last year, my hopes for this year's conference, and why I think events like InnEdCo are so valuable. I'm looking forward to fleshing out these ideas to share over the next month and know that in the process I'll develop new ideas to think about. 

*A big thank you to +Ben Wilkoff for getting this Countdown going and encouraging me to participate, and to +Innovative Educators Colorado for working diligently all year in an effort to be innovative with how this conference can continue to push the boundaries of professional learning events.

#InnEdCo14 Countdown Club

The Countdown to #InnEdCo14 is an awesome way to share why we love the annual InnEdCo conference. It's also a great opportunity to grow your PLN of educators to connect, or reconnect, with at Copper Mountain in June. But the fun doesn't have to end when your day is over!

Once you've participated in your Countdown day (they're going fast - grab yours now!) join together with other members of the Countdown Club by jumping on Twitter and any other social networking sites you love once a day to share your continued excitement leading up to June 16 with #InnEdCoADay. Miss a day? Don't worry, just jump back in the next day. Let's keep the conversations going and get pumped for #InnEdCo14, one day at a time!